Kollam: Over 90 people were killed and 350 injured when a major fire broke out at the Puttingal Devi Temple complex in Paravoor early today. The fire started as sparks from a fireworks display ignited a storeroom filled with crackers and pyrotechnic material.
Thousands of people had gathered in and around the temple to witness the fireworks display, which were on since midnight. The mishap occurred as sparks fell on the ‘Kambapura’ storeroom and exploded with a deafening noise at around 3.30 am, the police said.
The sound of the explosion could be heard over a kilometre radius. The entire area plunged into darkness as the power supply was cut off and people ran helter skelter, eyewitnesses said.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said he has been informed by the state health minister that the death toll has gone beyond 90.
Chandy said he has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to provide two helicopters at Kollam to ferry those who have been seriously injured.
Modi has directed the Indian Air Force and Navy to divert all helicopters in their command to ferry the injured to major hospitals in nearby cities.
“The condition of some of the injured is stated to very serious and the injured have been admitted to various hospitals in and around Kollam and in Thiruvananthapuram,” Chandy said. He also said the district collector of Kollam had not given permission for the fireworks display.
Police sources said a case has been registered against temple authorities and explosive licencees under sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of the IPC and under section 4 of the Explosives Substances Act.
Kerala Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, who visited the spot, said 40 bodies have been identified.
A special cabinet meeting will be held at Kollam at 3 pm today to take stock of the situation, he said, adding the priority is to provide help to the injured at the earliest.
The prime minister has announced a two lakh rupee compensation each for the next of the kin of the deceased and 50,000 rupees each for the injured.
Modi, who is on his way to Kerala to take stock of the situation, termed the incident as “heart-rending” and “shocking”.
The Prime Minister has also asked Health Minister J. P. Nadda to reach the site of the mishap.
Modi is taking with him to Kerala a team of doctors specialising in treating burn injuries.
“Team of 15 doctors of Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital are put in service. They are coming to Kerala. We are also sending medicines from Delhi and at the same time we are ensuring there should be no shortage of medicine as well. Team of doctors will reach by the afternoon,” Nadda said.
Chennithala said the fire is now under control and the fire brigade and the police were coordinating the rescue operations.